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Old 11-10-2007, 12:16 PM   #1
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Default OUTDOORS: Versatile Dogs

OUTDOORS: Versatile Dogs

If you own a bird dog in Maine, you're probably in one of two categories.

You love to hunt grouse and woodcock, so you bought a dog and trained him yourself. From January to October, he's your family's pet.

Or, if you're like Peter and Marie Wade of Farmington, you're passionate about a specific breed. They own three German short-haired pointers, operate Northern Exposure Kennels and Guide Service and have carried sporting dog excellence to extraordinary heights. They train their pointers for national competitions through the North American Versatile Hunting Dog Association (NAVHDA).

Gretta, Grace, and 6-month-old Jada train almost daily for these field trials, and Gretta has been a consistent winner in national utility dog field trials.
"A versatile utility dog has a well-developed sense of smell, flawless pointing, and a passion for tracking and retrieving birds," Peter Wade said. "The best dogs can do all these tasks with a highly consistent level of eagerness to perform for their handlers."

NAVHDA defines versatility as "the dog that is bred and trained to dependably hunt and point game, to retrieve on both land and water, and to track wounded game on both land and water."

"We're active in the Sebasticook chapter, and several of our members have taken their dogs to national trials," Marie Wade said. "It's important to note that our dogs don't compete against each other but towards a standard of excellence."

Sporting dog breeds originated in Europe, and each breed has one unique natural instinct. The flushing dog will find a bird's scent and track it until it flies out of its hiding place. A pointing dog will track the bird and the retriever will bring it back.
Dogs can be trained for more than one purpose but upland bird hunters rarely hunt with a combination of flushers, pointers, and retrievers. Pointer puppies will instinctively go into position for robins or squirrels, so the trainer's job is to refine that instinct until the dog points only at woodcock and grouse. A good sporting dog will train endlessly with obvious enjoyment.
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